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A Piece to Honour Stephen Lloyd: A Great Human Being

A few hours ago I received an email telling me of the passing of my dear friend and colleague Stephen Lloyd. I have no doubt that over the coming days many from the social investment sector will share their thoughts and reflections about Stephen. As I sit at my dining table thinking about him I feel unable to easily come to terms with his sudden death–to ease my pain I feel compelled to write a few words about the man I knew and my experiences of him.

Most people know him by reputation as a great lawyer with Bates, Wells Braithwaite, and indisputably the social impact investment sector’s leading legal light. There were few organisations, structures, laws and regulations which pertained to this crazy field of ours in which he did not have some role. His energy was boundless, his dedication total and his insight–razor sharp. I also found him shockingly commercial for a lawyer–a social sector lawyer at that. But these instincts served him well and meant he was truly unique. This extraordinary blend of talents he put to use in being one of the key architects of the UK social economy. We all owe him a tremendous debt.

I should confess that he was ClearlySo’s lawyer. In fact, even long after he ceased to be this, I would still consider to be “our lawyer”. Rarely do legal advisors evoke such warmth from their clients, but then again Stephen was no ordinary solicitor.

He took on all sorts of causes, cases and clients–sometimes for no fee, often at low fees, just to be helpful to some socially-oriented enterprise trying to get onto the first rung of the difficult and slippery ladder we call success. His utter inability to say no meant he had the most extraordinary and vast array of roles and responsibilities, yet somehow he managed–I cannot imagine how he did it. And the way he carried it off seemed effortless–he always smiled–his eyes always twinkled–and he was always gracious. He never made you feel he was too busy or too important for you–instead he would make everyone else in the room feel that it was they who were important and special. And if you ever needed him, he was there in a flash. I can remember an urgent call I made to him one evening–he mumbled on the phone some venue that I somehow managed to find and he appeared there, moments later, drenched in rain, having cycled over to meet me. Amazing!! (I had taken a cab…..)

On another occasion he helped me in a time of serious crisis at a large charity in which I was involved–he dispensed useful advice, but also offered more–support; compassion; a badly needed kind word and reassurance……..

If I needed someone to confide in on a very sensitive point, there was no one else I could have imagined turning to

When one of my children needed career advice, and was considering law, it was Stephen who took the time to meet them

When ClearlySo desperately needed investment, it was Stephen who reached into his own pocket to buy some shares

I could easily go on……

He was indefatigable and was endlessly connecting people. I could give dozens of examples, but the best, and one that might not be widely known, is that it was Stephen who connected the two women who built one of the most successful socially oriented businesses ever–Justgiving. I have absolutely no doubt that absent this astonishing partnership, conceived by Stephen, the firm would certainly not be where it is today–a world leader in charitable giving and global crowdfunding. Stephen was the godfather of many enterprises which populate the social sector.

But despite all of that he was incredibly humble. He had no airs. No pretense. He was just a decent guy, with a huge heart, boat loads of talent, super tankers full of energy and an oceans of decency. One anecdote which many will not know, which attests to his humility, came when he rang me to support a candidate for an “honour”. A number of people in the sector had received one, and Stephen felt one particularly worthy individual had been overlooked. I reacted and said, “look, if anyone deserving has been overlooked its YOU–let me campaign for you” (not that I had any idea of how such a campaign actually happens). He chuckled and shifted the conversation. I rang him days later and harangued him, telling him that I would figure out how to do this, and would do it. He pleaded for time and asked if he could consult his wife Lorna on the matter–which seemed fair enough. When I rang back and demanded a response, he said–and I will never forget it–“well actually, I would really rather you didn’t…….”

Perhaps I did the right thing in honouring that request, I am not so sure, but I could not sleep tonight without honouring his memory. He was a great man and I shall miss him deeply. It is the convention of those from my faith to wish all those who mourn, above all his family, long life…..you are very much in my thoughts on this sad and tragic night.